Whether you are traveling at the airport or shopping at your local grocer, you will likely have come in contact with a product manufactured or facilitated by Interroll Worldwide Group, a leading manufacturer of key products for unit load handling systems, internal logistics, and automation.
In fact, about 80% of the world’s airports and 60% of supermarkets use Interroll products, such as the conveyors and polymer rollers where you find your luggage at baggage claim or where you place your groceries in the checkout line at the market. Interroll also produces solutions for postal services, food processing, e-commerce, retail, and other industrial production applications. The company grows significantly and benefits strongly from various global trends, says Volker Rommel, Interroll’s Global Head of Business Applications. “More and more logistics companies invest in more efficient machines and processes, and with the boost of e-commerce, goods are now expected by customers all over the world with just a click,” he says. “We want to facilitate this business as efficiently as possible.”
With its headquarters in Switzerland and major business in Europe, Interroll also enjoys a strong presence in North America and Asia. The global group is structured according to seven centers of excellence for various product groups. With 34 legal entities (operating and financial) in scope for an SAP implementation, Interroll needed a new back-end system that was fast, simple, and reliable. The company implemented an SAP roadmap that involved a clustered implementation approach based on ASAP and catalyst methodology.
“We started with 11 entities in July 2011 and rolled out an additional nine entities a year later,” Rommel explains. “We used best-practice approaches mainly for industry and machinery solutions, and at the moment, we have implemented 78 business scenarios based on SAP best practices in our Interroll template.”
Now, Interroll runs SAP software successfully in 27 legal entities (representing 80% of its total entities) in 16 countries on five continents. The rollouts continue, and Interroll expects to have over 90% coverage by 2018. This business transformation is just the beginning for Interroll. The company also recently implemented an SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud project to migrate all of its systems, which includes nine systems between dockets, performance management systems, other applications, SAP ERP, and SAP Solution Manager.
Four Phases of Implementation
In February 2015, Interroll launched the project to migrate its system landscape to a new data center in Germany. Even though there were many complexities to the project, namely changing legacy databases to SAP HANA and upgrading the SAP ERP systems, it only took six months to go from the architecture and planning stage to go-live.
The implementation was organized into four phases, says Luca Bianchi Bosisio, SAP Professional in Systems, Basis, and Authorizations Management at Interroll. Phase one involved testing the environments and a mock migration using an SAP sandbox to upgrade the system, change the database, and eventually migrate everything to the new system. Phase two was the first real migration stage, and using the sandbox tool, the development system was disconnected from the transport routes, which were temporarily frozen, and then re-created in the new German data center on SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud. The transfer routes were then reopened, and in phase three, the process was repeated with the quality assurance system.
“We had to create a new transport route between our development system and core retention system into the new data center and then connect our development system with our production environment into the old data center,” explains Bianchi. “This was really a challenge because we were moving a lot of transports.”
In phase four, the process was repeated for the production environment, and in only 48 hours, the team was able to move and upgrade the production environment, change the database, migrate the environment to the new SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud data center, reactivate all transport routes, and connect the production environment to the other solutions including SAP Solution Manager and SAP Easy Document Management. “I am extremely happy with this project because it was on time, within budget, and of high quality,” says Rommel.
Naturally, during each phase of the project, there were some challenges, explains Bianchi, but the team and its SAP consultants were able to approach each speed bump with different solutions and choose the best solution for the project to keep things going.
Performance and Response Improvements
“Immediately after the end of the migration, we noticed that the performance of the system was very good,” says Bianchi. “We improved a lot of the response time for the majority of our critical transactions.”
Today, transactions are 10 to 60 times faster than before, and a quick return on the investment will be realized through a 10% savings in hosting each year. In addition to faster performance, the system is more reliable. Ad-hoc reporting is also significantly faster, and with the data highly compressed, the business is using half the disk space with a 1TB database.
The creation of a strong business case was crucial to the success of the project, explains Rommel. Initial planning must go beyond just the technology to ensure a clear look is taken at the business and customer needs. A strong team was also required. “Issues always come up,” he says, “and it was how these issues and unforeseen problems were solved within the team and our partner, SAP Switzerland, that was a big success for the whole project.”
Also critical to the project was sizing Interroll’s SAP ERP systems and running reports, adds Bianchi. “By doing this, we were able to forecast possible problems and so on,” he says. “Again, SAP supported this, and we were able to run some migration checks to check our operating system, our database, and so on from the beginning, which helped avoid issues during the next steps.”
Building a BI Business Case
This SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud implementation has set up Interroll for a solid step in the direction of business intelligence (BI), which the company is also evaluating, along with the possibility to include data from a heterogeneous landscape in the SAP HANA database.
Rommel adds that a BI project — specifically SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence (BI) solutions — has already been evaluated. The initial findings show that the company could save about $1 million with a traditional BI project, yet see even higher results with SAP HANA. “We are still at the beginning of this,” he says. “We will continue the platform thinking in regards to our global platform for Interroll services because we want to reach out to our customers faster and easier.”
Another next step for Interroll is media integration. “Bringing digitization to the shop floor is important for us in regards to visualization, such as for local assembly or montage manuals, and using tablets with visualization on the shop floor or virtually,” he says.
Rommel’s team is also focused on enhanced reporting capabilities that will come as the SAP environment matures. “We still use standard reporting to a big extent, and we want to enhance this and move in the direction of mobile reporting,” says Rommel. Mobile reporting would allow direct business information to be placed where it is needed, on a global scale, through mobile applications used by sales teams and on the shop floor.
Customer analytics is another important SAP HANA project for the team at Interroll, as it’s critical in today’s fast-paced global economy to understand customer habits in real time. The team is also evaluating the potential of sales analytics and forecasting. “A lot of improvements are expected in the future,” says Rommel, “and that’s the basis of the migration to SAP HANA.”
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